The Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) provides timely information about the environment of the United States portion of the Gulf of Mexico and its estuaries for use by decision-makers, including researchers, government managers, industry, the military, educators, emergency responders, and the general public.

GCOOS is one of a series of Regional Coastal Ocean Observing Systems which are part of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System, which is, in turn, part of the intergovernmental Global Ocean Observing System and a significant national contribution to the Global Earth Observing System of Systems. The Gulf of Mexico observing system seeks collaborations with other nations and regional observing systems that border the Gulf to design and carry out a Gulf-wide system.

Information from the Integrated Ocean Observing System will serve national needs for: detecting and forecasting oceanic components of climate variability; facilitating safe and efficient marine operations; ensuring national security; managing resources for sustainable use; preserving and restoring healthy marine ecosystems; mitigating natural hazards; and ensuring public health.

At this time most observations and products are supported directly by federal, state, and local governments and the private sector. Some funding is available from the federal government and private sector based on successful peer-reviewed proposals.

GCOOS is governed by the GCOOS Regional Association, led by a Board of Directors and supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Members of the Regional Association are U.S. institutions or individuals who are actively engaged in conducting observations of the Gulf of Mexico coastal environment, or who are end users of data, products, or services resulting from these observing programs. Non-U.S. entities can become non-voting Associates.